Do not fear the News of the World

It is the scenario every PR professional dreads. The phone rings at 4pm on a Saturday afternoon and the number is withheld. The News of the World is calling about one of your clients, and it is almost certainly not going to be good.

The Sunday tabloid's price may have jumped to £1, while its circulation has just dropped to below three million for the first time, but it remains the biggest selling newspaper in the UK. Its reputation for celebrity exposes make it a fearsome proposition. However, senior PROs know a secret; the journalists are not really that scary.

Nor is the paper only concerned with celebrity scandals. Taylor Herring's co-founder James Herring says it is 'surprisingly amenable to softer features as long as they have a solid angle and great pictures'.

Human interest, sport and political stories are all on the menu, as are stories about saving readers money. NOTW deputy editor Jane Johnson advises that the paper recently strengthened its emphasis on championing the consumer.

The magazine supplement Fabulous, which has just celebrated its one-year anniversary, also provides a plethora of opportunities for PR professionals.

'Celebrity clients are a little bit scared of the NOTW because of the big exclusives and the undercover investigations,' reports Hackford Jones co-founder Simon Jones. 'We like getting clients in Fabulous because you get more polished results - the shoots look amazing and the interviews read really well.'

Most importantly, make sure you are giving the paper an exclusive. Frank MD Andrew Bloch says the NOTW can be a useful tool to set the agenda for the following week.

He recently launched Virgin Media's 50Mb broadband service on a Monday, but set up an exclusive photo shoot with the NOTW for the previous day. 'This helped to raise the level of anticipation for our Monday launch,' he says.

And if that dreaded Saturday 4pm call comes, sticking your head in the sand will not help.

The Outside Organisation recently dealt with the paper over Kevin Pietersen's resignation as captain of the England cricket team. MD Penny McDonald says working with the journalists, not against them, was the best way to create the most positive story. 'The NOTW is factually pretty sound compared with most titles. The team does its fact checking and we work with it overnight on a big story,' she says.

Jones agrees. 'If you have a long-term relationship, the paper will call you because it knows you will not try to stop a story if it is true, but will co- operate,' he says. 'That call prevents any nasty surprises over your breakfast on Sunday.'


Circulation: 2,987,730 (ABC December 08)
Fabulous: 518,000 female ABC1 readers under the age of 35


NOTW editor: Colin Myler
Deputy editor/editorial director of Fabulous: Jane Johnson
Fabulous editor: Sally Eyden
Tel: 020 7782 4000

A MINUTE WITH ... Jane Johnson, deputy editor, News of the World

- What makes a good story for the News of the World and Fabulous?

The paper has a very wide-ranging remit. The paper will do the celebrity scoops, while our magazine will focus on in-depth celebrity interviews and glossy cover shoots. Fabulous has a strong emphasis on celebrity, fashion and real-life stories. It is an aspirational read.

- How crucial is it that stories are exclusive?

The NOTW won't take second best. The stories have to have a strong news angle and the product has to be new on the market. We have a very good relationship with PROs, but they need to come to us first.

- In which celebrities are you interested?

Our readers are interested in reality shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and X-Factor. We are also interested in hot British talent like Leona Lewis and Cheryl Cole. In the past, our scandals may have been about lower-division footballers, but now we go for more high-profile figures.

- Call or email?

A phone call is best if it is a huge story.

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